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Mr. BAIRD. I thank the chairman for yielding.
Madam Speaker, I rise today in strong support of the bill before us now, H.R. 2693, the Oil Pollution Research and Development Program Reauthorization Act, and shortly we will be discussing H.R. 5716, the Safer Oil and Natural Gas Drilling Technology Research and Development Act.
I want to begin by complimenting our chair, Ms. Woolsey and Ranking Member Hall for two outstanding pieces of legislation that could not be more timely, and that are tremendously important given not only the events we are facing in the gulf today, but towards trying to prevent these kinds of incidents from occurring in the future.
I want to start by commending the many thousands, more than 33,000 people who are in the gulf today working on this cleanup effort. I had the privilege of traveling there recently, along with members of our Science Committee staff, and when I met with some of those folks I asked what can we do to help? And their answer was the first thing you can do is tell people that we are working tremendously hard, and we are making a real difference. We have people working in more than 100-degree weather, in a terribly difficult environment, and they are working 12- to 14- to 16-hour days, 7 days a week. And they often feel that all they get is criticism. They are making a real difference. It's a heroic effort, an unprecedented scale, and we should be proud of them.
In that visit I met people from virtually every major Federal agency, from NOAA, EPA, National Marine Fisheries Services, the Coast Guard, and countless others, many of whom, I am proud to say, are from my own great State of Washington. And they are very proud of the work they are doing. I want to begin by acknowledging that.
As we all know, OPA 90 came in response to the Exxon Valdez spill. And thanks to Ms. Woolsey's leadership, we had actually begun in our subcommittee to try to review how the research effort to prepare for and prevent these kinds of spills was going forward. Sadly, that proved to be very prescient, because the spill that evolved in the gulf is precisely the kind of event that we were trying to prepare for.
The average folks that I represent say to themselves, and they ask us, a few simple questions: What went wrong that allowed this to happen to begin with? What are we doing now to get it cleaned up? How do we prevent future spills from happening? And if there should be a future spill, what can we do to clean it up and to better understand and mitigate the environmental impacts? The legislation, both bills before us today, answer those questions.
They are designed to improve our ability to extract material in a safe manner. One of the critical measures we are doing is reprioritizing some of the funding so there will still be an emphasis on the extractive technologies, but with greater attention paid to the safety of those, both the safety of the crews working on the vessel, and to the protection of the environment from environmental impact.
At the same time, we are trying to do measures to prevent accidents from occurring in the future. That includes implementing best practices, reviewing the technologies, human factors dealing with the communication, and the training of the workforce. Some of the testimony we had suggested the workforce training has not kept up with technological developments, particularly in the specialized area of deepwater drilling. And this applies to the regulatory agencies, who it's essential that they have personnel on the scene who are experts in the precise technologies that they are overseeing during their regulatory visits.
We also spent a great deal of time looking at the environmental impacts of this. What is it we know about how the environment is being impacted and what is it we need to know? This legislation before us will direct the research agencies to improve our knowledge both of the research available on how to clean this up--we heard from Mr. Kevin Costner and others who have technologies designed to clean up the water--but also so we can understand what we need to know to conduct research prior to the event.
Additionally, I am proud to have authored an amendment, along with Paul Tonko, that would allow us to pre-stage both technologies for cleanup and research studies so that should there be an event, we can make use of that event to gather more knowledge on what we can do to reduce the oil in the water and to mitigate the environmental impacts.
The other thing people are asking about is what are we going to do to make sure we can clean this up better? And I will tell you that the areas we visited in the gulf, there are some areas that are doing remarkable work to prevent oil from coming onshore in pelican rookeries, to try to clean up the beaches when they have been contaminated. But one thing we know, this is going to be a long-standing impact. And we need to not only research what's happening today, we need to continue to research what's going on in the future. This will be a long-term research project. This legislation recognizes and supports that.
Finally, I should say that this is an international issue, and this legislation provides for measures to collaborate with international entities.
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Mr. BAIRD. In conclusion again, I just want to acknowledge the leadership of Mr. Hall, the ranking member, who has been instrumental in prior work to make sure we had developed competitive technologies to gain access to these resources for the benefit of our country, but the foresight of Ms. Woolsey, and the outstanding leadership in bipartisan fashion of Chairman Gordon.
The Research and Science Committee has again led the way on an issue of major national importance. I am proud to have been a part of this, and urge passage of both bills today.
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